Then came the task of safer public transport system. “This was going to be possible by creating socially responsible drivers and conductors. So, we trained participants on understanding gender issues and sexual harassment laws, as well as enhanced communication skills and how to manage situations which occur on the bus,” said Gupta. The programme that was launched in June this year aims to cover all the bus depots in the state.
“Till date, 6,000 drivers and conductors have been trained across 15 districts of Haryana. The remaining seven districts will be covered by November-end,” she adds. The training provided by Manas Foundation includes two trainers who run the sessions thrice a day, over two hours.
While the programme aims to sensitise over 10,000 drivers by November end, it hasn’t been an easy ride. “There have been logistical challenges especially to ensure that drivers and conductors are able to take time out to undergo the training without disrupting the day-to-day operations of bus services. Depot managers have been instrumental in managing the schedule so that as many drivers and conductors as possible can be trained. There have also been challenges for the trainers when discussing the personal content during these sessions. Most drivers and conductors have taken the sessions very well and engaged positively, but trainers do face difficulties in engaging all the participants,” Gupta says.
“Such gender-sensitisation training is imperative to address safety of women in public spaces. It will encourage officials to pay attention to issues women and girls face on a daily basis when using public transportation and how to address these issues. It will raise awareness amongst bus drivers on how to address a sexual harassment incident when it occurs on a bus, how to believe victims and take the necessary steps to ensure that these spaces are safe for all women and girls. Hopefully, it will also set a tone of zero tolerance towards sexual harassment in public transportation and encourage women to report such incidents because appropriate action is being taken to address it,” says Dr Shruti Kapoor, founder, Sayfty — an organisation that educates and empowers women and girls against gender-based violence. According to Kapoor, the training must also focus on how to raise awareness amongst bystanders on what to do in case someone is harassed in public spaces.
While the funding for “Safe Gaadi” is being provided by Indian Oil, the programme coordinators are hopeful the positive response will help them expand it to the auto drivers in the state as well. “We want to ensure that when a woman or a girl is in distress, immediate assistance is provided to them,” concludes Gupta.